Lionel Messi Rumors: Barcelona President Willing to Resign to Keep Star at Club

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistAugust 27, 2020

Barcelona's Lionel Messi reacts during the Champions League quarterfinal match between FC Barcelona and Bayern Munich at the Luz stadium in Lisbon, Portugal, Friday, Aug. 14, 2020. (AP Photo/Manu Fernandez/Pool)
Manu Fernandez/Associated Press

Embattled Barcelona president Josep Maria Bartomeu is prepared to resign if Lionel Messi will reaffirm his commitment to the club, according to ESPN's Sam Marsden and Moises Llorens.

Tales Azzoni and Joseph Wilson of the Associated Press confirmed Tuesday that Messi told Barcelona he wants to leave this summer. Marsden and Llorens reported that Bartomeu's resignation probably wouldn't be enough for Messi to reverse course.

Barcelona have already moved up their presidential election from next summer to March 2021, and Bartomeu is unable to run for another term.

Even though Bartomeu will be out one way or the other, some wondered whether Messi's public request was a way to expedite his departure.

Liam Twomey @liam_twomey

Regardless of whether Messi stays at Barcelona or goes, Bartomeu has to resign. Absolute shambles of a presidency, crystallised in the total disillusionment of the club’s greatest-ever player

The club already sacked manager Quique Setien and dismissed sporting director Eric Abidal following the 8-2 Champions League capitulation to Bayern Munich. Messi and Abidal had engaged in a war of words earlier in the season.

A clause in his deal allowed Messi to effectively leave on a free transfer if he informed Barcelona of his decision by the end of June. It's unclear whether the language in his contract means the deadline was extended since the COVID-19 pandemic pushed the conclusion of Europe's domestic leagues back.

The Guardian's Sid Lowe wondered, however, whether the situation had escalated beyond the point where Messi would return to the Camp Nou based on that looming legal battle:

"It is no way to seek reconciliation. When two sides have reached the point that they are talking through lawyers and formal letters, there's not much love left. All that's left is to negotiate or to fight, to limit the damage or risk multiplying it. The question now is what that clause says: does it set a specific date? And when? If so, the legal position is clear. If not, if it says something more vague, referring instead to some variation on 'the end of the season', then that can be argued in court. And, yes, this really might end up in court: club versus captain.

"Captain? The best player they have had. The best player anyone has had, perhaps. There is no satisfactory resolution now."

In addition, Barcelona are potentially facing a significant rebuild relative to the heights they enjoyed under managers Pep Guardiola and Luis Enrique. Bartomeu's resignation wouldn't single-handedly transform the club, and Barca is potentially facing a drastic change in direction resulting from the presidential election.

Messi turned 33 in June, and he has spent some of his prime years watching Barcelona spiral into dysfunction around him. The six-time Ballon d'Or winner may be tired of waiting on things to improve.